Now and again people decide to bitch about the modern, "wasteful" world using an argument like "You know, the Indians used every part of the buffalo for something, all we do with cows is eat the meaty bits."
This argument is complete nonsense. Cow derivatives are (if sometimes in tiny quantities) a part of virtually every modern industry
. Actually, you're surrounded right this minute with bovine
materials used in plastics and other synthetics, unless you're a hardcore vegan
type who buys only products made from plant matter.
Where, precisely, is the beef, you inquire? Here's a partial answer:
Blood: Bovine serum albumin provides a medium for laboratory growth of cells. It contains enough protein, hormonal factors, etc. to keep blood-borne organisms alive, but can be purified to the point that its composition is well known and suited for lab work. Blood components also end up in industrial adhesives, fertilizer, and as the cohesion agent in foam fire extinguishers.
Collagen: Skin and tendons are reduced to make raw collagen, which is almost always further processed. From it medicine gets vascular and tissue sealants, as well as artificial skin and bone graft material. Plastic surgery wouldn't be nearly so fun without collagen injections, either, they're an easy way to make full lips from thin ones.
Gelatin: Gelatin is derived from collagen, and probably half the stuff in your kitchen contains some gelatin: jelly, marshmallows, margarine, jello, iced cream, meringue, canned meats, and anything sugar-coated. Notably, the spamicidal jelly that comes in every spam can is mostly gelatin based. Gelatin can also be a binder for most any powder, everything from pills to match heads to carbon paper.
Organs and Glands: Fifty years ago this would've been offal. Now, it's profit for the processing companies.
- Bile: Acidic portions become industrial detergents, bilirubin portions used for human liver function comparison.
- Bone: Charcoal ash used to refine sugar, calcium for ceramics, abrasive cleaning and polishing mixtures, and bone/dental implants.
- Gall Bladder: Industrial cleaning and fixing agent for leather, dyes, and paints.
- Heart: Pericardium patches for cardiovascular surgery, and Potted Meat Food Product.
- Intestines: Sutures, violin strings, racquet strings, and Potted Meat Food Product.
- Liver: The enzyme catalase that's used to remove protein from contact lenses.
- Lungs: Heparin blood thinner, and pet food.
- Testicles: Hyaluronidase enzyme for cartilage and joint treatments.
- Trachea: Chondroitin sulfate, an arthritis treatment.
Tallow: Extracted from meat and boiled out of bone, hooves, and horns, this fat is both useful by itself and has lots of nice derivatives. Alone, tallow is used as shortening for baking and also heated up for deep frying. It's also used as an industrial grease, some of which is likely in your kitchen mixing and chopping devices. These fatty acids are also derived from tallow:
- Acid Amines are used to produce rubber and some textiles, and also to inhibit metallic corrosion.
- Acid Esters become lubricants for textiles, metalworking/machining, and lithium-based greases. They are also good non-food-grade emulsifiers.
- Azelaic Acid is used in low-friction coatings for airplanes, race cars, and fishing line. It is also the active ingredient in the acne medication Azelex.
- Fatty Alcohols are even better emulsifiers, and are processed to become detergent.
- Glycerin from tallow is a part of virtually every skin lotion available, as well as foods like iced cream bars and hard candies. It also shows up as a hair strengthener in shampoo, mousse, conditioner, and hair dye. Glycerol from glycerin becomes inks, lubricants, and antifreeze after some processing. And we can't forget nitroglycerin, without which heart patients and anarchists would both be in a world of hurt.
- Oleic Acid becomes, after a few chemical steps, synthetic motor oil. It can also be used with gel cultures in the production of antibiotics.
- Stearic Acid, after processing, has widespread use in the cosmetics industry, and has anti-foaming and waterproofing properties.